How To Raise An Entitled Child
A lot of people wonder how Western parents raise such stereotypically soft, entitled kids. Well I can tell you because I’m doing it.
It seems like the middle of the night but it’s actually morning when we hear a small voice saying: “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,” etc. My husband and I pretend to sleep, each breathing deeper than usual until one of us gives in.
My husband drags himself out of bed. I stir slightly, but then roll over and close my eyes for as long as I can get away with it. I’m the one with a two-year-old all day while he dances off to drink coffee and play on a computer in a quiet place he calls work.
My daughter toddles over and whines for some of my toast. I seat her back in front of her bowl of oatmeal and banana. She eats the banana and takes a few bites of oatmeal. Then she’s back beside me begging for toast. I give her some, breaking my rule that she can only eat what she’s served and when seated. Excited by the huge amount of butter, she begs for more. What’s the harm in a few bites of buttery toast?
Music class starts in 15 minutes. My daughter refuses to put on a coat or hat or mittens. I force her into the coat and tell her if she doesn’t wear the hat we’re not going anywhere. She says “Okay” and heads to the kitchen. “You don’t want to go to music class?” I ask. “No class,” she says. “But you love class,” I say, scooping her up and into her stroller. She goes limp and slips from my grip. I try to grab her again but she’s not having it until I remind her that Archie will be at class and she loves Archie. Halfway to class, I get a hat on her head. To hell with the mittens. You try getting mittens on a two-year-old.
The teacher smiles indulgently as we arrive late for music class. She’s holding a box of shakers, tambourines and bells. The toddlers are invited to take two each. My child returns with an armload full. I praise her coordination as well as her musical ambition. Could it be we have a prodigy on our hands?
We’re back in front of our house. My daughter refuses to go inside. I need to make lunch, but I guess it can wait. We walk to Starbucks where I order a latte, a babyccino and a blueberry muffin. My daughter sits like an angel at the table as I feed her the muffin. I have high aspirations for this kid. I aspire for her to get halfway through a blueberry muffin without spilling a babyccino on herself.
It’s late and so I quickly scramble eggs and cheese, and butter a piece of toast. She wolfs it down and asks for more. We’re out of eggs. I give her a clementine. She spends 10 minutes peeling it (I’m no longer allowed to peel them for her) before throwing it in pieces on the floor. I tell her if she does it again, no more fruit. What am I saying? I wash the fruit from the floor and return it to her plate. She eats two pieces and smiles sweetly as she feeds the rest to me. If that’s not genius, I don’t know what is.
I read three books, she asks for two more. I read two more and manage to get her into bed for her 2pm nap. I’m thrilled she’s quiet as I check email and Facebook. Lately she’s been skipping naps. A few minutes later, I hear her singing in her room. Ten minutes later, she’s calling for me. “It’s nap time,” I say, entering her room. “Doh wah” she says. “No television,” I say. “It’s nap time.” “Doh wah,” she says. I let her watch “Little Bear” while I finish checking updates on Facebook.
For lack of anything better to do, I sit her down at the piano. I show her how to play a single note with one finger. She smashes multiple keys with her hands. I patiently show her again. She gets her stuffed dog Babu and bangs his paws on the keys. “Babu play,” she says. She grows bored and wanders off. I play a few rounds of “Chopsticks”, the knuckle song and finish with the first three chords of “Brian’s Song”.
I pull out the Lego set. We build for a while, then switch to playing tea party with her stuffed animals. Then we have a few games of cards — as much as you can play with a two-year-old who wads the cards into balls. Twenty minutes later, I’m bored and desperate to get out of the house. I bribe her into going to the park with the promise of ice cream.
My husband is working late, so it’s just the two of us for bath, dinner, teethbrushing and books. We get through the bath with only one minor skirmish. She refuses to vacate it even though I’ve pulled the plug and there’s no more water and she must be getting cold.
Dinner passes uneventfully enough, save her wiping the table clean afterwards, sending grains of rice onto the floor. Some sticks to the wall. I’ve told her repeatedly not to do this but she just laughs like we’re playing a game. My husband thinks she wants a clean space after her meal, and says it’s my family’s obsessive compulsive neat genes at work. I say it’s his sloppy genes that lead her to throw everything on the floor. I’ve tried making her wipe up afterwards, but she gets really into it. I guess my husband is right about the neat genes.
She won’t let me brush her teeth, even with the yummy orange flavored toothpaste. Instead she stands on her small stool sucking on the toothbrush until I say “No books, just straight to bed, unless Mommy can brush your teeth.” “Okay,” she says. “That’s okay with you?” I say. “No books? Just straight to bed?” “No books,” she repeats. “Oh, come on Sweetheart; just let me brush your teeth. It will take two seconds.” She won’t budge. “I’m serious,” I say. “No books, just right to bed.” I start to pick her up like I’m going to put her in her crib. She unclenches her teeth, and I brush the top row as fast as I can before she clamps her mouth shut again.
“Sweetheart, this is getting old. We could be done by now and reading books.” I get the top inside done. “Two more seconds,” I say. She sits on her stool. I crouch down and get the bottom front done and then the back and finally her teeth are clean — or clean enough.
Ten minutes until bedtime. I can’t wait. A bottle of white wine is chilling. My husband will soon be home. I read in a way that’s speedy but doesn’t seem too speedy. My daughter is sensitive to it. If I go too fast, she slows our routine by pretending she doesn’t know which dog is the red one in the yellow car (our Go Dog Go game) or flipping back to the beginning of the book and begging me to start over. Kids are so clever. A quick rendition of Rock-a-bye Baby and she’s in her crib and I’m off to my wine.
My husband is home and I’m telling him all about our day. How our daughter fed me clementines and made Babu play piano, and how she cuddled against me and wrapped her arms around my neck and whispered, “Sohwee Mommy” as I cleaned up the rice.
“She was adorable,” I say.
Conclusion: People from other cultures may believe the best way to raise children is, as Tiger Mom Amy Chua says, by “letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”
I’d just like to say that we Western parents often feel the need to arm ourselves. At two our kids already have all the confidence they’ll ever need.